They used to be on top of the world.
The rock duo Soler, composed of twin brothers Julio and Dino Acconci, made a huge splash on the Hong Kong music scene with their debut album “Double Surround Sound” in 2005.
The following year the duo staged their first concert before a packed crowd at the Hong Kong Coliseum in Hung Hom.
Their impressive voices and excellent performances simply electrified the audience. Their repertoire encompassed acoustic rock, jazz, Cantopop and English pop.
But the explosive start to their career later turned into a whimper. A contract dispute forced them to declare bankruptcy in 2012.
The misfortune could have broken people of lesser spirit, but not the Acconci brothers.
They learned to take whatever fate dealt them. Bruce Lee’s dictum — “Be like water, my friend” — became their guiding light in the darkest moment of their career.
“When we couldn’t find jobs in Hong Kong, we went to Taiwan instead. Our Mandarin has improved a lot in the meantime.”
Beneath their jocular exterior is a toughness the twins share. Adversity also strengthened their bond as brothers.
Once, they were invited to perform at a New Year’s Eve celebration in mainland China.
The crowd was dancing wildly to loud rock and disco music. But when the duo appeared on stage, they decided to soothe the frenzy by playing their classical guitars and rendering a couple of folk songs.
The crowd was at first stunned, but soon started booing and throwing tomatoes and coins at them to show their disgust.
“Forgetting the lyrics or making a wrong note does not make the worst performance, but a genuine failure happens when the performers and the audience are out of sync.
“We continued our performance no matter what. We managed to dodge the tomatoes, but the flying coins left their marks on our guitars.
“Nevertheless, a handful of the audience applauded and we thanked them.”
Born on 9 September 1972 in Macau to an Italian father and a Myanmese mother, the twins easily gained facility in languages at a young age. They are proficient in Cantonese, Mandarin, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.
“RTHK producers once approached us and asked if we would consider taking up the role of vampires for a show.
“We agreed right away as we thought it would be fun and amusing. Still we surprised them with our positive reply.”
Dino said traditional Chinese parents don’t encourage their children to travel off the beaten path. As a result, children grow up in an environment where there are too many do’s and don’ts.
“I don’t think it is a good idea to force children to do something they don’t like. They are kids, they’re supposed to be carefree. When something sparks their interest, that’s passion, that’s where the aesthetic sense emerges,” he said.
The Acconci twins are speaking from experience. They have been playing the guitar since the age of 13.
Thanks to their mother’s approval and help from fellow artists, the duo were able to nurture their love for music. At 15, they developed a fondness for watching live performances.
At 17, they left Macau to pursue their studies in Italy. They returned in 1999 in time for Macau’s return to China.
During their brief stay in the former Portuguese enclave, the twins met Jun Kung who invited them to come over to Hong Kong to make music.
“Our rise to fame was just a result, but our starting point has always been about making music,” Dino said.
“We won’t forget where we came from,” Julio added. “We belong to the underground music circle and we perform regularly in pubs.”
Currently, Soler is doing regular shows and holding music workshops at a Hong Kong school.
These workshops gave them the idea of setting up the Soler Choir, a group of music lovers who share a common passion and harness it to enjoy themselves and spread positive vibes through the power of music.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 22.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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